The US Department of Interior published yesterday the story of Esau Sinnok, Arctic Youth Ambassador, who lives Shishmaref, Alaska (population: 650). Shishmaref is a village that "is so remote that it is only accessible by airplane, and we only get fresh food products from other parts of Alaska every one to two months. If we can’t hunt and fish to feed ourselves in the winter, we will starve", Esau writes.
The effects of climate change on Arctic communities as Shishmaref are already very visible and severely affecting people's lives. "Over the past 35 years, we've lost 2,500 to 3,000 feet of land to coastal erosion. To put this in perspective: I was born in 1997, and since then, Shishmaref has lost about 100 feet (30,5 meters). In the past 15 years, we had to move 13 houses -- including my dear grandma Edna’s house -- from one end of the island to the other because of this loss of land. Within the next two decades, the whole island will erode away completely". "My grandfather remembers when 30-35 years ago ice used to form fully in late September or the middle of October" he tells "It is December, and the ice barely formed enough for us to safely cross it".
As many other communities in the Arctic and worldwide, the only option seems to be relocation. "In 2001, my people voted to relocate along the coast of mainland Alaska, but the estimated cost is $200-250 million. The reality of moving is very complicated. There is not enough funding for relocation efforts. And even though we made this decision, everyone wants to stay -- especially the older generations who have spent their whole lives in Shishmaref. But we realize we have no choice. It really hurts knowing that your only home is going to be gone, and you won't hunt, fish and carry on traditions the way that your people have done for centuries. It is more than a loss of place, it is a loss of identity. Once you see how vulnerable my community is to sea-level rise and erosion, you won't be able to deny that Arctic communities are already feeling the impacts of climate change"
The testify of Esau Sinnok, who will attend the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris -- COP21 -- , is to tell leaders that climate change is affecting the Arctic more than other places of the world, and if the ice in Greenland melts, these villages and islands will be under water.
Read the full story here.
(source: US Department of Interior)